Page 4— The Daily Alaska Empire Thursday, Mar. 15, 1962
Glacier Bay Development
Discussions are going on between Senator Ernest Gruening and the Department of the Interior concerning development of visitor use facilities in Glacier Bay National Monument. The senator points out the need of preparation for substantial numbers of visitors at National Park Service Alaska the larger ones being Glacier Bay and Katmai National Monuments and Mt. McKinley National Park, among the largest and most important in the entire national park system.
Such areas are put under the National Park Service for two basic reasons: (1) to be kept in their natural condition for (2) the education and enjoyment of the people of this and succeeding generations. It is the intention that the areas be used by the people of the United States for sightseeing, inspiration, outdoor recreation of appropriate kinds, scientific study, and so forth. If this purpose is to be accomplished and our rich heritage used to shape and color the continuing American way of life, there must be at least minimum preparations for visitors, and these preparations must have adequate planning, especially since there is to be as little disturbance as possible of natural conditions.
Senator Gruening has found that the Department of the Interior recognizes the need for overnight accommodations for visitors in Glacier Bay National Monument and the federal government's responsibility to plan and construct such facilities, since it has not been possible to get private concessionaires to do so.
The senator is urging swifter action, however, stating that the "year 1963, which is probably the earliest date these facilities could be completed . . . will witness a tremendous influx of tourists to Alaska. The reason for that beginning late this fall (1962), but in full swing by the summer of 1968, three ferries carrying over 100 cars each and operating daily out of Prince .Rupert up the Inside Passage will bring a flood of tourists who will want to stop in Glacier Bay National Monument. The need is therefore urgent and in consequence I would like to urge very strongly that the position of the department be that facilities in Glacier Bay be given not merely 'high priority' but that they definitely be included in the 1964 budget presentation which will shortly be under way. Indeed, it would be extremely helpful and I urge that these planning funds be included in a appropriation for THIS session of the Congress." He goes on to say that "while obviously there are many demands all over the country, in no place has there been such a total neglect of recreational facilities by the federal government as in our Alaska parks and monuments ... In Mt. McKinley all we are doing is to improve a long existing road — nothing in the way of accommodations. In Katmai for the first time the federal government is planning to spend a few dollars building trails and a road to permit visitors to visit the Valley of the 10,000 Smokes, for which, and other volcanic phenomena, the monument was created decades ago . . . Finally to return to Glacier Bay, accommodations have been provided for the Park Service personnel but nothing for the public . . . "
Those few who have been privileged to visit the Glacier Bay area have declared it to be among the most fascinating of all areas on earth. There is no question but that if people could visit with any convenience at all, they would do so in substantial numbers to their own benefit and to the increasing long-range benefit of Alaska. We would not, for all Park Service areas, advocate federal government construction of accommodations, as in many places it is better and more in keeping with the goals of the national park system to have such developments made by private interests on the fringes of the park area, but for an isolated area such as Glacier Bay the action pushed by Senator Gruening seems both proper and urgent.
We feel sure the National Park Service, Department of the interior, wishes to show beautiful Glacier Bay to the people of America, and we trust that in view of the coming marine highway system and influx of travelers in Southeastern Alaska, the plan may be expedited. We do not know whether the Park Service might already have such plans for Glacier Bay in its "Mission 66" program, designed to prepare the parks for the full load of visitors expected by 1966, but it could hardly '"have been possible for the service to have known when that long-range plan was made up some years ago, that the ferries were coming. Hence, the senator's request" for special planning with special speed seems appropriate.
In this connection, we would urge more Alaskans to become well acquainted with Glacier Bay and other such treasure houses of natural beauty and life within the boundaries of the state. Our own great interest will help stimulate and make possible a more universal enjoyment of the potential of our "Great Land."